The Swine Flu is obviously a major concern in the United States with fears of a global pandemic. People are trying to guard against the virus but what about our pets? Can dogs and cats contract the Swine Flu or even other viruses that have been known to affect only humans?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Swine Flu is a novel influenza A virus (H1N1) that is causing illness in people around the world. Swine influenza is a contagious respiratory disease that affects pigs, and can be passed to farmers or worker by handling infected pigs (on pig livestock farms or barns). However, some human cases have occurred without contact with pigs or places they inhabited. When influenza from different species infects pigs, the viruses can generate new strains that are a mix of swine, human and/or avian influenza.
Since Swine Flu comes from pigs it seems it would be easy for other animals to develop this virus. However, this is not the case, and research is being done to see if virus mutation might be a future concern. “It might possibly mutate and cross over into other species,” said Dr. Amy Kurowski of Saint Marks Veterinary Hospital in New York City. Although The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals does not think animals such as dogs and cats can contract Swine Flu. “At this time there is no data demonstrating any risk of dogs and cats contracting this strain of the virus,” said Dr. Louise Murray, Director of Medicine at the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Hospital in New York City.
Kurowski went on to say that people can contract salmonella from reptiles and small mammals. Salmonella and bacterial infections should be kept at bay by keeping the animal and pet parents’ surroundings clean. “Leptospirosis bacterial infection can infect dogs and then infect people,” added Kurowski. “It causes liver and kidney damage…it’s rare, but it can happen.”
What about other diseases can animals contract? MRSA is one disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans. This disease is from skin to skin contact such as open wounds. Diseases such as MRSA are called Zoonotics that means they can be transmitted between humans and animal. Zoonotics and birds have landed. Those little feathered colons can leave a bacterial disease, meaning people can become very ill from inhaling bird droppings that have become dry and built up.
By taking a few extra precautions, keeping up with vaccines, and washing your hands regularly, parents and pets should be confident of living a fruitful life.
For more information visit: cdc.gov or vetinfo.com.